Thursday, February 12, 2009
Options to DCSS
Metro Atlanta offers a wide range of private school options for students who are better suited to different educational environments. Some of the schools even specialize in areas of study or focus on helping with learning disabilities. However, with tuitions over $15,000 these schools can be out of reach for many. There is hope. Below I have listed some affordable – even free - alternative education solutions when traditional DeKalb schools are not meeting your child’s needs.
DeKalb county offers most core and AP courses online as an option. There are three alternatives for DeKalb OnLine Academy (DOLA) courses: During the School Day, Beyond the School Day And Credit Recovery. Regular fees are $250 per half-credit course. Out of county students can take courses from DOLA for an additional $50. However, there is a well-kept secret - you may take a DOLA course at school, during the school day at no charge. Your counselor will assign a designated area for you to work online. Most of the teachers are actual DeKalb county teachers who already teach in the school system. They teach online courses for additional income. You may even be assigned a teacher from your home school. Your high school guidance counselor must sign you up.
The AJC recently reported that there are 4400 students enrolled in the Georgia Virtual Academy (GVA) - this is state sponsored and completely separate from DeKalb’s online academy. The website says, “Imagine a high-quality public school program that offers the innovative use of technology, a rigorous curriculum from K¹², individualized learning plans for each student, and accommodations to foster different learning styles. This exceptional public school program is not imaginary—it's the Georgia Virtual Academy (GVA), a program of Odyssey School (a public charter school), and it serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade throughout the state!
A sponsor of GreatSchool.net, K¹² learning – the program used by Georgia Virtual Academy, is a completely online academy offering curriculum for every state from kindergarten through 12th grade. Visit this link to view a sample lesson.
DeKalb County also offers The Open Campus. The website says, this “alternative secondary program provides an educational opportunity to high school students who wish to accelerate the manner in which they complete the remaining required units for graduation. This alternative secondary program provides an educational opportunity to high school students wishing to enter college or join the work force early, to students who need to make up courses for graduation, to dropouts seeking education while gainfully employed or to married students. Open Campus enrollment is available to DeKalb County residents 16 years of age who have completed 75 hours or 5 units toward a diploma.” Visit the website for more information. While you're there, check out the student’s comments as to what Open Campus did for them – it’s a very promising program.
In addition, we now have a program called "DeKalb Early College Academy", which I have heard only good reports about. It is described at the DCSS website as an "early college initiative in joint partnership with Georgia Perimeter College. This program is very well-suited for students who may be struggling in high school. Students make a 4 year commitment and end up with their high school diploma and an associate's degree from Perimeter College: "In addition to the college preparatory curriculum, the program’s design makes it possible for the students to receive 60 hours worth of college credit leading to a two-year Associate’s of Arts degree from the college." It's a great deal, and thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the cost is very low.
Faith Academy, a SACS Accredited, Christian-based high school education program provides an alternative to traditional public high school. It is a very affordable, self-directed program where students pick up weekly assignment packets and do the work at their own pace. Faith has licensed teachers on staff for unlimited tutoring at no charge, as well as scheduled group tutorials for many classes. Many parents who homeschool turn to Faith Academy for an accredited high school curriculum. You must be at least 16 years old to enroll. They have Georgia locations in Loganville, Stockbridge and Buford. Since this is a private program, you don’t need to live near a location to attend. Further, if you move out of state, you can FedX your weekly packets.
Homeschooling is becoming more and more popular. To homeschool your child, you must closely follow certain laws. First, you must submit a Declaration of Intent to homeschool as well as fill out a homeschool packet that you acquire from the County. There is a helpful organization called Home Education Information Resource (H.E.I.R.) that will help you navigate the homeschool rules.
DASCH, Dunwoody Area Support for Christian Homeschoolers, is a group organized to help Christian home educators in the Dunwoody, GA area. This is a Christian group with a statement of faith. They offer Mom's Talk monthly meetings, park days, and field trips. Christian home educators of all denominations are welcome.
For a Catholic support network, visit the website of the Holy Family TORCH.
Group activities are held at St. Benedict Parish in Duluth, GA. This group takes monthly field trips together and the group is well over 150 per trip. In addition, this busy group puts on plays, hold spelling bees and do mission work.
C.A.R.E.F.R.E.E. (Children Achieving Real Education From Regular Everyday Experiences) Homeschoolers is an all inclusive, eclectic (mixed bag of methods), secular homeschool group with roots in Dekalb, Clayton, Rockdale, Newton, and Henry counties in Georgia.
Ta'Alim Islamic Homeschool Alliance is support group for Muslim homeschoolers throughout Dekalb and Metro Atlanta area. Their group members are an eclectic mix of Muslim homeschooling families with various backgrounds in education and skills. Their website is very informative for anyone considering homeschooling.
It’s a horrible feeling to be in the “gray” area regarding your child’s education. With nearly 100,000 students in our system, logic tells us that we cannot serve them all with an educational plan that suits their individual learning style. So many kids end up outside the box, for a variety of reasons. Although it’s frightening and somewhat depressing, please know that there is hope out there. There are a number of alternatives to a high school diploma. I’ve listed some above – please add more ideas as well as share experiences in the comments links.